Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bolpur/ Shantiniketan - Tuesday 23.2.10

Hotel Rangamati's a pretty cosy place. done out in a sort of jungle theme, with 'faux' tree branches on the wall & several tanks full of fish out the front. I slept well, as I have been doing for most of the trip (exhaustion from cycling perhaps). Breakfast was another matter - I selected the 'standard' one for Rs65, comprising tea (which I managed to get changd to coffee), a banana, 3 pieces of toast & jam & eggs (poached, fried or omelette). Ordering an omelette seemed to create a problem, but this was eventually okayed. It all sounded good, but when it arrived - well, the coffee & banana were fine. The toast, accompanied by one serve of butter was cold, but the eggs ...! The eggs comprised two fried eggs, melded together by a thick overcooked base while the top of both was largely uncooked. I thought I'd have a go anyhow - it was stone cold! My complaint eventuated in a properly cooked omelette. God knows what the story was behind the first one.
Last night I had a meal at Green Chilli, the one Lonely Planet recommended place in town (and just across the laneway from Hotel Rangamati) - nothing much to write home about.
This morning I visited the Shantiniketan museum & then this afternoon I walked around parts of the university here. There were some fairly funky sculptures & buildings on view; everything seemed pretty much closed otherwise. I think Tuesday is a half-day here.

I thought I'd cash a travellers cheque at the State Bank of India. Entering the bank at midday I was confronted with a crowd of customers & staff & a bewildering array of desks & signs but nothing indicating Foreign Exchange or TC's. An enquiry led me to a woman at a corner desk, who was embroiled in some task with a male employee who appeared to be her senior. "Just wait" he requested when I presented the TC & passport & gestured me to sit in a chair at the next desk. After he left, she continued processing a pile of forms, looking somewhat harried. I pressed the issue, & was again told "just wait" which I did until about 12:20 when she & the woman at the next desk told me I needed to go upstairs to the Foreign Exchange section. I didn't have a clue where that was, so another member of staff kindly showed me the way. Upstairs, the man who had been at the desk when I first presented received me, took my passport & TC, looked up today's dollar rate on a computer, wrote something on a piece of paper & directed me back to the woman downstairs at the corner desk. "Just wait" she said before finishing a small pile of forms; she then filled out a form in triplicate, giving me 2 copies & then taking her copy to be countersigned by another colleague. She then directed me to the Cash Room where several workers & a few customers were waiting around. A pile of money was sitting on the desk, and there seemed to be bags of it in an open metal cabinet. I was offered a cup of tea as I sat & waited. Eventually it was my turn - an assistant counted out my money twice (Rs4520 for $100 USD), wrapped an elastic band around it & then put it on the desk to wait for the "Senior Assistant" (according to the blue plastic sign on the desk) to return. When he did, he recounted the money & handed it to me. Hallelujah! I left the bank a little after 1pm, the entire transaction having taken a little over an hour to complete. Normally this exercise takes about 7 minutes with a money changer. (I did manage to swap my stained Rs100 at the bank - they laughed, gave me a new one & stuck the dodgey one in the middle of a bundle of Rs100 notes, presumably to continue its unredeemable journey in circulation). 


Anonymous said...

I thought I'd cash a travellers cheque at the State Bank of India.

Dave, I did that once albeit about twenty years ago and I waited over 2 hours under a fan which looked rather haphazard as tho it was about to decapitate all of us in a thrice. Ever since I have never ventured into a State Bank of India. Good to see their efficiency has not really changed wot with the advent of computers and all.

Listen Up Dave. You will need to do a Risk Assessment prior to entering any further State Banks, methinks

Enjoying the ride.

Bikkhu Pete

Mr Felix (aka Pak Peelips) said...

It would be kinda cute to follow that rogue note along its journey... :)

Anonymous said...

Hi David, We've been following your adventure with interest and laughter (at times)and relief when you get through unscathed (if not a little shaken).
Jan, Conrad and Simon did the Lake mountain ride last Saturday. It was hot and very long steep hills. All made it safe and sound. Jan pretty tired. Next weekend we're trying out a ride in the Dandenongs.
This week I got 2 larger gears put on my bike for the hills so a might make it!
Your blog is terrific Go on well and safely Don't pass any more buses.
Love Julie and Jan

Murray said...

Hey David,

Sounds like a fantastic trip so far. I'm very jealous only getting to ride my bike up and down chapel/church street. The blog is geat and very entertaining. Looking forward to seeing some pics when your back.


david w said...

Lake Mountain sounds like good training for the Otway classic - I'm hoping Siliguri to Darjeeling will do similar for me.

david w said...

Pete, I'll let you know how my attempt to use one of their ATM's goes ...

david w said...

Murray, I've taken nearly 1000 photos!